Blending Light and Dark: A Qualitative Analysis of the Experiences of Stress and Growth in Retired Police Officers

Prof Doc Thesis

Contreras-Negretti, V. 2019. Blending Light and Dark: A Qualitative Analysis of the Experiences of Stress and Growth in Retired Police Officers. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsContreras-Negretti, V.
TypeProf Doc Thesis

This research aimed to explore the experiences of operational stress in retired police officers and of their growth following the adverse events they had faced during their service in U.K. police forces. As there exists a paucity of studies on retired officers, the rationale for exploring these participants’ perspectives in the present study was illuminated through the review and critical analysis of relevant theory and research on stress and growth among serving police officers. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight participants and the resultant transcripts were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), which gave rise to seven superordinate themes: “How stress presents itself”; “The weight of accountability”; “Diverse ways of coping”; “The corrosive nature of distress”; “Breaking point”; “Anchored in macho narratives” and “Forged in the fire”.
Findings were discussed at an interpersonal level, which examined culturally-specific aspects of experiencing operational stress, emotion and vulnerability within the police and also at the individual level. More specifically, findings showed that in the context of stress and inconsistent support, officers had distanced themselves from the organisation, minimising distress, before turning to social groups for support. Furthermore, within the hegemonic, masculine context of the police, officers had been left to construe the expression of emotion as unhelpful or unacceptable, leaving them in a state of emotional isolation and often extricating them from their own internal worlds.
Findings suggested that the minimisation of emotion was construed as adaptive in terms of job performance but toxic in hindering officers’ capacity to make sense of their individual and interpersonal experiences. Recommendations were made in relation to more comprehensive police training around the expression of emotion; around the need for the police organisation to become a more secure base, where operational stress may be contained and harnessed in order to enhance performance and in terms of the necessity to move away from clinical interventions that rely purely on help seeking practices of the individual.

PublisherUniversity of East London
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OnlineJan 2019
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Deposited21 Nov 2019
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License: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
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